This piece was written for T. S. Bazelli’s Author Aerobics. This week’s challenge was to write a piece in the present tense, which is something I almost NEVER do. Anyhow, it was a good exercise. I find it a more reflective way to write. I really got lost in the feel of this piece.
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I want to know. Not just know in my head; I want to touch, to feel, to see that there is an Earth beyond this grim gray landscape.
I step outside after dinner’s over. The gray sand under my feet makes soft crunching sounds, the kinds of sounds I imagine “Beaches” on Earth (That’s where the water meets the land) would make. Making my way up the side of a hill, the gray sand crunches with every step, scrunch, scrinch, kind of like the way flour sounds if you pack it down real tight.
At the top of the hill, I sit, waiting for the nightly show. I long to see it every day, and every day, I am obliged.
Earthrise is always different. Sometimes it’s during the day when the sun is hot, and other times the Earth eclipses the sun. Today, it rises with the stars behind it. Full Earth. I can see the continents, which glimmer with the shine of cities. Clouds create huge cataracts, and the blue ocean fills in its place placidly.
I wish I could know Earth.
I’ve seen pictures—glorious pictures of tall cities, houses filled with people, trees which are large plants. They say that there’s not enough room left to live on it, but I don’t believe them.
The Earth is nothing like here on the moon, where our short houses fill small patches. The air is rich, but I hear it’s richer on Earth. They say that when Monsia began, artificially dense air was pumped into the nonexistent atmosphere. I breathe in and out, and listen to the immense silence. The absolute quietness permeates the air, and I listen intently for something. I can just barely hear a fly somewhere nearby, making its confused circles, beating the air under its tiny, helpless wings.
Finally, I can’t bear it any longer and I get up to go for a walk. I run down the hill, spraying up the dust behind me, and at the bottom I stop to catch my breath, doubling over. There. I regain myself and head toward the road.
Crunching along the gravel path, I look around at my home planet and feel happy for a second, but it doesn’t last. The buildings are squat, with lit windows, and small trickles of smoke trailing into the short sky. Everything’s so dark…I hear on Earth, during the day, even the sky is bright with color. Everywhere underfoot are little plants called grass (It’s like long, thin leaves—hard to believe, I know, but they say it’s true).
At first, I don’t know where I’m headed, but then I realize where my subconscious is taking me. Only a mile to go, I finish the race in a brisk jog.
Where my mind has been taking me?: The Ladder to Earth. The ladder was built years ago, and it’s so old it’s broken in some places, and they say that it takes a full year to climb. Only the fittest make the journey, and you could get hit by a meteor if you were “Brave,” enough to climb it. The ladder is tall and rusted, with a huge sign heralding its presence. THE LADDER TO EARTH, is written in an old typeset, which looks like it’s from a sci-fi comic book, which this is not. The Ladder to Earth is not fictitious, or very scientific. It’s a rusty ladder. Nothing but a rusty ladder.
Every day, the ladder touches the Earth as we rotate. It only happens for less than a second, so you have to plan your journey well. For instance, if you leave too early, or too late, you could find yourself going in a day-long circle. And when it finally touches down, you have to align the position of the Earth with the position of the moon so you can land in the ocean, where they say you’ll land easily.
Indulging in imagination, I hold the rung. Vibrations from Earth make it ring slightly, and I look up its length. The two parallel lines stretch up, seemingly for infinity, joining together miles down the line. The rust is rough under my young hand. When can I climb this ladder? Will it not be until my soul is as rusted as the countless rungs?
The intense wish to know drives me on, pushing my feet from the ground, jarring me away from the moon. I place a foot on the bottom rung, and then the next foot.
The rung crumbles.
A little surge of adrenaline goes through me as I imagine the rung snapping if I were halfway down the ladder. I go on to the next step up, wonder and imagination propelling me. Before I know it, I’m on the fourth rung. Something feels wrong, but then again, there’s something that feels so very right about it. Like I was meant to live on the Earth. I go on up the ladder, to the eighth rung, then the ninth, then the tenth. Further and further I go away from the ground, with no sense of time, or danger, or anything but excitement for the Unknown. Up, higher, I start to get giddy at the thought of leaving the moon and heading up for Earth. Thoughts of glory fill my head. I entertain the fantasy: mysterious rumors of my disappearance. What will the food be like on Earth—Will they have bread? How about water? The Earth is three fourths water, but I hear you can’t drink most of it. Are the Earth people friendly? Do they speak Inglish? Has anyone ever come to them via the Ladder before?
Suddenly, I find myself gasping for air, and I realize that I’m at the edge of the atmosphere. Beyond this is empty space. I can go no further, and I’m struck by an obscure sense of hopelessness.
I’m struck by the devastating thought that I must return. I’m struck with the devastating thought that the only life for me is here on Monsia.
© J. P. Cabit 2010